To prepare you for 21st year of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, completely virtual-for-the-first time as you’ve never seen before, we bring you 21 previews spotlighting the breath of films offered for your home viewing. The films, which represent more than half of those in the AJFF lineup Feb. 17-28, include classics, intimate family dramas, upbeat comedy and historic documentaries. Sit back and relax as the AJFF brings us together through film.
Let’s just say it’s complicated. Not your everyday shiva. “Shiva Baby,” written and directed by Emma Seligman, is a satirical comedy filled with a cast of characters awkwardly interacting at a shiva. The movie’s focus is Danielle, an unmotivated millennial, played by Rachel Sennott. As her identity dismantles and takes center stage, the unpredictable layers of her lies are revealed at this debacle of a gathering. Centered around an accidental run-in, Danielle bumps into her real-life sugar daddy who unknowingly shares this common connection. Next, add a high school lover who appears, and the rest of the shiva is a whirlwind of conflictual fiascoes. This comedy combines a disastrous reunion, an untimely gathering and unravels one embarrassing moment after another.
The movie’s provocative opening and perplexed ending further position “Shiva Baby” as a character study of intertwined relationships. Its comic relief mixed with sex, lies and a shiva is a quick-witted story swirling around Danielle’s life choices and looming stress as her secrets unfold. Add in her interfering mother, who uses the shiva opportunity to network her daughter for a job while both of her parents are cluelessness about their daughter’s life behind the scenes. The pushing and shoving of Danielle’s mom through the story is comedic, but certainly tragic, as Danielle appears to be an imposter outrunning the parent’s expectations.
The shiva also includes a cast of judgmental characters sharing an undercurrent of whispers. While “Shiva Baby” exposes Danielle’s secrets, to make matters worse, her hidden lover also brings his wife and their baby to the shiva. Of course, no one escapes judgment in this crowd, with characters chiming in with comments like, “Who brings a baby to a shiva!”
The gossip that swirls around this film keeps the story lively and unpredictable. Sexual interludes and panic attacks leave the main character trapped in her past as she does her best to manipulate the present. Unlike any shiva you’ve attended, you’ll wonder should you laugh, cry or just feel sorry for the main character, who is trying her best to sort out her undirected path in life.